Now that’s more like it. That offense was sizzlin’ like bacon on a griddle. I’d like to thank UConn for their inability to play defense. After suffering through the Georgetown game, it was refreshing to see the offense clicking like we know it can. This is in fact credit to the Hoyas. Them dudes can guard a dude. They made SU fight and claw for every point. UConn, not so much. Orangemen were open over and over again. The Huskies have some scorers but they are seriously deficient in the shutdown department. Scoop Jardine doesn’t go 8-9 from the field every day. Or really ever. But if you give him wide-open three-pointers he will make them. And if you let him drive all the way to the basket he will make a layup. There were many, many times when SU players drove into the paint where the “help defense” consisted of some Husky on the wing weakly reaching out and swiping at the ball as the SU player went past. They don’t know (or “have yet to learn”, to be charitable) how to move their feet and get into defensive position. Last year UConn was third in the nation in blocked shots, but Drummond is not good enough on defense to replace that production and the rest of the team hasn’t adjusted.
Then again, when Fab Melo is hitting 18-footers you know it’s probably going to be your day, one way or another.
Mounds of accolades have been thrust in the direction of CJ Fair for his performance yesterday, and with good reason. He was brilliant on both ends of the floor. But I would like to give a holler to the rebounding from the SU backcourt. Waiters had 4 boards and Scoop had 2. Five of these were defensive rebounds. The Syracuse coaching staff made a key adjustment to combat the rebounding problem in sending one of the guards to the defensive glass almost all the time. Most of the year the guards have tended to leak out early when an opposing shot goes up, to try to create a transition opportunity. This strategy only works if your bigs can be counted on to control the glass. Last season that wasn’t a problem, because Rick Jackson gobbled up every carom in sight. But this year’s team doesn’t have that kind of prowess. Our centers are usually not in good rebounding position because they try for blocked shots. Which is fine. But the weak link on the defensive boards is Kris Joseph. Sometimes he gets it in his head to go in there throwing elbows and battling for rebounds, but other times he’s just a spectator hoping that the ball bounces his way. And you never quite know which Kris is going to show up. So the adjustment that it looks like the coaches made was to have a guard help out on the defensive glass and let Kris leak out instead, where he is more in his element anyway. Since the zone (when it’s working properly) forces a lot of jump shots, guards are frequently in a better position to chase down rebounds. They get a better angle on the trajectory of the shot, and no opponent is focusing on boxing them out right away, so they can run to wherever the ball is going. And even when they don’t get the rebound, they at least are in there mixing it up so that CJ maybe only has to outfight one guy instead of 2 or 3. Another advantage to this is that if one of SU’s guards does snag a board, he can try to start the break himself right away and push the ball up the floor, rather than having to receive a pass. And SU’s guards are strong and physical guys who can hold their own in the paint if they need to. All in all, I think it’s a great strategy and I hope it keeps paying dividends.
I am starting to mentally prepare for our loss tomorrow night to Louisville. UL has pretty much owned the Orange recently in all sports that we care about. OK, not in field hockey, but in both basketball and football. Our football team hasn’t beaten them since the Cam Dantley era, and we’ve lost every basketball game against them since this one in February 2006. That’s Gerry McNamara’s senior year. (Or, if you prefer, Devin Brennan-McBride’s only season in orange.) The seven-game losing streak began in the 2006-07 NIT-bound “snub” year, but has continued even as SU squads rose to #1 rankings and top-three tournament seedings. No matter how good we are, we just can’t seem to beat the Cardinals. In fact, SU began losing to Louisville in the same year Cuse Country began its blogxistence. So maybe it’s our fault. Whatever the reason, I’m not expecting a win tomorrow. Maybe on Senior Day in a few weeks, but not at the embarrassingly-named Yum! Center.
And yes, I am a little excited that I have been able to tag this post in the “Devin Brennan-McBride” category.